I wonder sometimes, if we are true to ourselves, do our theologies come from our mind or our heart? we would like to say neither – we would like to claim some sort of divine inspiration but the unavoidable truth is that theology has been and will always be interpreted through the lenses of our own senses, minds, experiences, hearts, gut instincts and so on.
Take for example the theology of war. I recently took part in a debate on war, and was on the side of ‘christians may not engage in warfare’. The debate itself was on the tame side – arguments concerning the way we choose to interpret scripture – which I found difficult to forumlate with a view of scripture that many would shallowly percieve as ‘low’ or ‘disrespectful’.
Having reflected upon the debate itself, the thing that has struck me the most is where people’s hearts could be at.
What I mean to say is this: often our theology is constructed that it might be true (orthodox). We frequently pursue this at the cost of relationship. We choose to believe something about God, thus instantaneously adding that ‘truth’ to the prism through which we view the almighty. The truth then becomes self defining and self evident because we ourselves have chosen to define it as a truth.
If however we were to take an experiential view of theology – trying to believe in the right way, we would perhaps find ourselves more closely aligned with the Christ whom we hunger so greatly to understand. But is not the important thing to be like Christ, rather than to know what it looks like to be like Christ? How can we know what it looks like if we do not ourselves experience the very same thoughts that were, and indeed are, in the mind of Christ?
Is our theology constructed from words, from concepts, from (il)logic, perhaps emotion? Or is our theology – that which we would say about God – constructed from experiential knowledge? Have we ever experienced God in war? Has anyone fired a bullet and genuinely felt Christ call out ‘amen’?
Furthermore, our theology reveals our heart. There are two polar reactions to war: to embrace it as necessary and to reject it outright. These were the two sides of the debate. To reject it outright would seem to chime with God’s original plan and with the future glory we await – few can doubt or argue with that, if they choose to argue from scripture. What is interesting is when we consider the call to inaugurate God’s kingdom now, with Christ, instead of waiting for some magical rapture that will change everything.
If we want to live in a world where we live out what we pray – your Kingdom come, your will be done [now] on Earth as it is [now] in heaven, then we must desire the things of that Kingdom. Jesus teaches us that ‘blessed are the peacemakers’. Surely then our hearts should hunger for peace? And if our hearts hunger for peace, why do we not feel undiluted, intense anguish at the mere thought of a violent conflict?Why does our soul not reject outright the very possibility of war?
That’s not to say that war is or is not permissible – that is in itself a different debate, a debate of faith against reason, of pragmatism against idealism – depending of course on your exegetical interpretation.
The real question for me is, are we (not) desiring God?